1/7/17

Ex-ual Healing



One would assume that ten years post-divorce every wound would be healed. Each hurt feeling would be long-tended and recovered. All those damages wrought by the jagged shards of shattered trust, imploding self esteem and broken vows...nothing but scars and memories now.

One would assume that, yes. And one would be kind of-sort of right. At least in my case.

As alike as our divorces and the series of unfortunate events that led up to them may be, we are still all unique. That goes for how we recover from our divorces, as well. Some of us are truly able to shed that skin like a snake, leave the husk behind and get on with gettin on. Some of us simply patched up as best we could, enough to blend in, enough to get through the days without sticking out too much. Regardless of our rate of healing, I think we all do it eventually but just like any other trauma, it does leave a mark. Maybe that mark is the self-doubt you feel when you look in the mirror. Maybe it's the "what if" game you play every once in a while.

For me, the mark is my gut. No, not the front-butt that has hung out on my belly since all those c-sections...like the divorce, I've come to terms with that too. The gut thing for me is that "pang". Are you familiar with it? It's the invisible fist that gets you right in the stomach, when faced with reminders of your past. At first, those fists are huge and powerful. The pang can take your breath away then, can bring tears to your eyes and cause you to recoil in physical pain.

After a while, the pang mellows. Oh, it's still there but over the days and months and years it becomes less fisty- more like a poke than a punch.

These are the divorce healing pangs, my friends. And they never end. They just get quieter, harder to feel and see. But I think it's important that we still acknowledge them, and give ourselves credit where it's due.

My latest milestone? It was something so silly I'm almost embarrassed to share it with you. I'm going to, of course, but still...it's with a little hesitation.

So, my ex mother in law. I LOVE HER. This isn't a bash against her, not one bit. I miss her and other family members so much. Way more than I ever missed her stepson. Yes, she's his step mom. His "real" mom, meh. She was great while we were married, afterwards, not so much. It's become a running joke in our house that she's still trying to kill me by sending chocolate chip cookies loaded with walnuts home with the kids at Christmastime every year.

The other mom, though? To quote Tupac, "nothin but love". To this day she continues to keep in touch, along with some sisters-in-law. They have been an integral part of my healing and I am forever grateful to them. When you've been rejected, wholly and completely by someone, it can be a lifesaver to know you're still worth enough to keep the lines of communication open.

Every year, right before Christmas, they have a big brunch at their country club. A holiday/December birthday celebration. I used to attend back in the olden days, and my kids continue to do so. This year, apparently, there was a photographer there to capture the fun. My mother in law sent me a link to the pics, because that's what kind people do. "Hey, your babies are in these pictures...thought you'd like to see them!" is what I imagine she was thinking.

I clicked on the link. And there she was. The woman who decided, a decade or so ago, that she wanted to get herself a man and set her sights on the one I happened to be married to at the time. There she was, smiling and holding her children. They were the first photos in the lineup, you guys. It's not as if I searched for them. Click and BOOM.

Here's the good news, though. It wasn't the gut punch. It wasn't even much of a pang, honestly. I did look because I'm human. Wouldn't you?? I looked at the kids and felt relief that they don't look anything like mine. I looked at her and for a flicker of a second thought "well she looks pretty pleased with herself". 

And then I kept on clickin'. Found pics of my brood and looked at them, thought how cute they were and how proud I am of them and then glanced at a few more and then closed the link. Not a slamming, close, either...just a run of the mill "click".

It gets better: I didn't think much about it, not really at all until a friend and I were discussing exes last night. I wanted to show her one of the pics but decided against it because holy Doritos, I might actually be a grown up. Well...we may want to hold onto that proclamation for a sec because I did also consider, for more than a few seconds, meme-ing the crap out of one of the pictures. "INSPIRATION TO SIDE CHICKS EVERYWHERE". Or, "I USED TO BE THE OTHER WOMAN, NOW I WORRY ABOUT HER" (don't worry, I didn't) (oh but we could have some fun with this one...😂)

If this had happened ten years ago, it would have immobilized me. It would have pushed me down a dark and cobwebby rabbit hole of anxiety and self-loathing and grief. I realize by writing about this, how proud I am of myself for not losing my shit after seeing a picture of my ex-husband's wife, that I'm inviting some of the "get over it already!" and "cripes, loser, it's been a decade!" comments. That's okay.

Because I know there are others out there who go through this. Whether it's been a month, a year or twenty years since your world was shaken down to its molten core, there are always going to be these reminders, these tests, if you will.

Pangs. Pangs and gut punches and pokes, oh my. They may hurt, but don't worry, my dears. They aren't fatal.




1/3/17

Winter Break Down

Not enough Febreze in the world.



In an unprecedented and spectacular calendar event, this year our school district's winter break included two four-day weekends thanks to Christmas and New Year falling on Saturday/Sunday. Normally, I work even on non-school days, but this year I decided that mama needed a break. So I took those four beautiful paid holidays, a couple personal days and thanks to a migraine, one sick day, a couple days of just straight up no pay and I carved out the longest stretch of days off I've had in years.

Last night, whilst sitting in the nest I made on the couch (see photo above), I started to feel kind of crappy about what I'd done with it. Like, this chunk of free time was a glorious, hopeful bundle of hours and days full of potential. Not unlike a newborn baby, really. So many wishes and dreams and plans!

Oh the plans! I was going to tackle the mess in the laundry room. One of my children had a bed with drawers underneath it. What are those called?? CAPTAIN'S BEDS! Yes. They had one of those and got a different one and decided to plop the drawers- still full of clothes- in the laundry room. This was over a year ago.

I was going to clean my own room. Right now it looks like my dresser, my closet AND my clothes chair* are suffering from a violent bout of the stomach flu. *clothes chair: a chair that exists to hold the clothes that are neither dirty nor clean. And which are eventually forgotten until the owner of said clothes suddenly can't find that one black top. You know, the black one? 

I was going to work out and clean and read a book and have a slumber party with a friend. The Christmas tree was going to get taken down and dragged outside. At least one of the three four junk drawers in the kitchen were going to get gone through and organized.

Naps were going to be taken. The dog was going to be walked every single day. IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE A MILLION WEEKENDS PACKED INTO TWO WEEKS.

I made a nest.

And I sat/layed/lied in that nest for many hours. I napped in that nest. I did read a little, I wrote a little and corresponded with friends. All from the comfort of the nest.

I watched approximately a shit-ton of televison. Movies! Shows! Netflix! Hulu! A couple DVDs!

So many pretend boyfriends, some old and some new. Here's a sampling:

Kal Penn and Kiefer Sutherland, both in "Designated Survivor"
Chandler in the first season of Friends (I love all of them in the first season, they're still hungry actors hoping to make it big, plus I love smoking Chandler)
Young Dennis Quaid as the a-hole in "Postcards from the Edge"
Several random slurring guys who seemed vaguely familiar on "Drunk History"
Jack Black in "The Holiday"
Tea Leoni in "Deep Impact" (lady, yes, but come on! She was the epitome of angular preppy cool chick...like the J Crew catalog took up acting)
and everyone on The West Wing

Nothing super constructive was accomplished.

Of course, Christmas happened, and I did pull that off again. Somehow. Molly and I had a long shopping day together, one of the best times I've had with her in ages. My kids are old now, so the magical part of Christmas doesn't happen like it used to. I still do the stockings, the gifts from Santa (stockings taken from the mantel, filled up and the Santa presents, unwrapped, next to them). This time I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and did the stocking stuffing part. Made coffee, waited a while and then they all gathered to open presents. The kids went to Big Daddy's for their requisite 2-3 hour Christmas visit and then we ordered a million pounds of Chinese food as a nod to our wonderful Jewish friends.

Our Christmas was perfect.

In fact, the whole stretch of time was perfect. No, the laundry room didn't get taken care of. To be completely honest with you, I haven't been down in the laundry room for days. I've been going commando because I can't find any clean underwear.

Going commando on winter break? Sounds about right. If not then, when?

I'm going to stop beating myself up for not "accomplishing" anything because when you think about it, I accomplished everything.

I relaxed.
I hung out with my kids.
I spent some time with friends.
I napped with my dog.
I cooked some good food and some mediocre food and ate way too much of both kinds.

I also grew a new chin and what is starting to feel like a hump on my back.

The one thing I did kind of mess up was personal hygiene. The youngest kid and I were in the car last night. I said, "Sweet Jesus, what stinks?" and he replied, "Pretty sure that's you, Mom."

Winter Break: that's a wrap.






1/1/17

2016: Triple Berry Jam

(This was supposed to publish on New Year's Eve but I fell asleep. At ten. While watching Friends on Netflix. Sigh.)

Yes, we get it. This year was very similar to a dumpster fire: stinky, flaming and hard to look away from.

But come on. It wasn't all bad, was it?

I mean, yeah. Personally it was a tough one. I lost my mom and although it felt as though I'd lost her years ago her actual death gutted me in a way I didn't think possible. Loss is loss is loss and I'm still feeling it. My lifelong obsession with sci-fi and fantasy and ghost stories groomed me to be ready for otherworldly signs from her, apparitions or whatever. My aunts saw white feathers everywhere and were convinced it was Mom saying hi. I found nothing. I saw nothing. The one time I did truly feel her was when I found an old Joan Walsh Anglund book she'd given me for Valentine's Day in 1970. I read this page:


And I'll be damned if I didn't feel her right next to me. I can't explain how it felt, exactly- the air around me was thick and felt charged with something. There was a sensation of someone, of HER, and for a moment I felt truly at peace.

Speaking of death, many of our beloved celebrities flew the coop this year as well. It started off with Bowie and Snape and Prince and OMG as 2016 gasped her final raspy breaths she managed to hook both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in her gnarled, tear-stained talons. My daughter and I were discussing the almost simultaneous exodus of the mother/daughter duo...Molly laughed and said "I suppose that's how we'll go out!" I laughed for a second but then the absolute and utter sadness of her statement walloped me in the face and in my head I screamed "NO! I will go first and you will have many years of life before you cross over! HEAR ME, DAUGHTER...I WILL GO FIRST."

So the celebrity deaths were sad too but sweet gadzooks can you imagine the conversations happening up there now?

Also I want to put Louis CK, Jon Hamm, Hall and Oates, Molly Ringwald and Melissa McCarthy in protective bubble wrap and hide them until it's safe. Jon and Louis, there's room under my bed.

What else was there that made this year, out of all years we've lived through prior, so bad? Ahh. Yes. That election. Yeah yeah. I know! This is a relatively politics-free space because I know we are all different and I value each and every one of you for who you ARE, not who you vote for. That's true. Always has been and always will be. Therefore I expect it in return. Most of you who have read this blog for a while or know me in real life are aware that I am a democrat. I dated, and was married to, conservatives for the entirety of my adult life. Last year and for a very brief but regrettable chunk of time this year I had a gross and embarrassing roll in the hay with a liberal guy. Let me tell you what I took away from it, ladies: liberals can be a-holes, too. Thank God that's all I took away from that disaster, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo. I'll refrain from going into my hand-wringing, knitted-brow mutterings about how the uncertainty of it all is giving me some anxiety. I will go on record, though, and say WTF.

But let's talk, for a moment, about good things. Although 2016 did have moments of sheer shittiness there was sheer beauty, too. Babies were born! People fell in love! Jokes were told and hugs were had and even in the darkest moments there were shafts of light...some very slim, yes, but light nonetheless. I have discovered, during my own trials, that it's not until you hit rock bottom (or get pretty darn close to it) that you find out how lucky you really are. It took me losing everything but my health and my kids to realize exactly what matters.

So I gave myself a task: go through the camera roll on your phone (I have a phone! It works and the bill is paid! How lucky am I???) and hit "select" on the pictures that brought you joy or happiness or made you laugh. Since I am not a deleter of anything, including photos on my phone, this took a while but guess what? There were at least a hundred pictures on there that at the very least made me smile...and many of them made me laugh, for real, out loud. And some that gave me the happy kind of tears, which while they aren't ever a surprise, are always welcome.

I had a grandiose vision of sharing some of them here and pinpointing exactly why said photo brought me joy but I realize that you all have lives and probably don't want to commit several hours of those lives to looking at pictures from your crazy blog friend's phone. So I pared it down to a few, and promise to keep the pinpointing to a minimum.

1.

This creature, this smelly, shedding old boy- he has my heart. Walter the Divorce Dog. I think he should have his own book. He has no manners and thinks he's a cat. He also saved me. He cries when one of the kids comes home and howls at the door to the garage when I pull in from work. I can't sleep without him. He is as old as my divorce so that makes him a little over ten. One of the suckiest deals in life is how little time we get with our dogs. I try to not think about it but sometimes the fatalist in me comes out and *boom* I'm trying to imagine life without him. I don't want to know.

Also, artichoke dip from Costco. It's the best.

2.

Aha. Another two-fer! This photo illustrates two things that brought me great happiness in 2016. My sweet youngest child, William, and Snapchat. He was my last baby and therefore I forced myself to remember the little things about that pregnancy, about his babyhood and each milestone. Birth order dictates that he is the kid who got the most one-on-one time with mom, whether or not he wanted it. And lucky me: he still plays along. He is my standing movie date, the car-ride conversationalist and reluctant-but-willing Snapchat accomplice.

Snapchat gives me life many days. My best friend from high school and I use it, religiously, every day to at least say "Hi" and on good days we have entire dialogues through 10-second snaps and videos. I'm quite certain the smooth-faced babies who devised the whole concept of snaps/chats didn't have middle aged moms in mind but I am thankful that they did it. Please bring back the old man with the newspaper filter, guys.

3.

These ladies. Again a picture that contains multiple reasons for joy: this was taken on the night of my 50th birthday. The silver-tressed goddess on the right pulled off a surprise party for me! My first one. And the hilarity of it all was only eclipsed by the love I felt. I'd been feeling sorry for myself the whole day...I mean, it was a MONDAY for cripes sake! Turning 50 on a Monday should be illegal. But I muddled through the day, with a bit of Eeyore in my heart because the entire day felt so anticlimactic. It didn't seem right for a woman who loves a party to let this major birthday pass without a bang but, dinner with my homie was going to be fun as it always is. So we walked into Yard House, "our" place, and what do you know. A room full of my friends and co-workers. Love, love, love. The one in the middle is my work wife. And yes I was sweating. I'M FIFTY YEARS OLD. That's what we do. I don't know how you thank someone for a gift like this? 

4.  video

Pardon my lack of centering. I not computer so good. This is a video of the tiny hands. They were a gift from my aforementioned high school friend and they truly are the gift that keeps on giving. I've had more fun with these little plastic hands than I have with my real ones. 

5. 

Pretend boyfriends. They're basically all I've got now and somehow that's okay. This one is Rob. And as you can see from the marked-up picture, which happened during a facebook exchange with my friend, he's tall AF. I like them tall and swarthy and preferably with a five o'clock shadow. Can someone find that for me in real life? Thanks. 

6. 

Boobs. Hahahaha! Just kidding. This shirt! One of my favorite co-workers had matching shirts made for us and we actually wore them out to dinner one night. It was hilarious. I love SATC in an almost-unnatural way, despite the fact that every quiz I take tells me I am Miranda. I don't want to be Miranda but Buzzfeed quizzes don't lie. 

7. 


There were no words for this one. Save for these: the person who sent this insanely generous gift hasn't met me, or my kids. She only knows us from this space. She knows we've seen some tough times and despite the fact that she has faced immeasurable loss this year she did this for us. I am still trying to think of an appropriate thank you. Because the mere words don't feel adequate. 

Oh my friends. You should have seen me at Target the week before Christmas. I still Cartwheeled, despite feeling really rich that day. I did two things with this card: shopped for my family and also shopped for someone else. I paid it forward, dear one. And there's still some left over ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

8. 

If you've read this blog for a while you know way too much about me. One of those things is that I am frugal. As in, I hate spending money on things that aren't hard and fast "NEEDS" vs "WANTS". A week or so before Christmas, the hand-me-down coffee maker a friend had gifted me with years ago met its demise. I wept about it on the facebook, not to get another one but because that's the kind of crap I post there (you want to be friends? LOL). But of course another benevolent and generous friend stepped up with yet another gently used old timey coffee maker, which I used immediately. 

Unbeknownst to me, there was a child plotting something. A 16 year old kid who went onto Amazon, read umpteen reviews and used almost $100 of his hard-earned teenage money to buy his mom a brand new, not even slightly-used coffee maker. You know why?

"Because you deserve something new, Mom." 

Oh, sweet child of mine. I deserve something, that's for sure. But I don't know if I truly deserved any of the good fortune that rained down on me in 2016. I don't know.

This I do know: I know how lucky I am. Lucky to have healthy and kind kids. Lucky to have not just one but a handful of the best friends a woman could ask for. Lucky to have a good dog. Lucky to have a saintly landlord and a roof over my head and Netflix and a Costco membership. Lucky to have eyes that can still see, a heart that keeps on ticking and legs that, if I asked them to, could get my ass up off the couch. 

Oops...forgot the last photo.

9. 

There's a boy at my school who gifts the office ladies with homemade jam every year. I forget about it, every year, until his lovely mom walks in and deposits the small bags of deliciousness on my desk. This year, I remembered and made sure there were English muffins on hand at home and the first day of Winter Break this was breakfast. English muffins with triple berry jam. 

The boy is in 6th grade now so this was the last year for the treat. I will miss it, and him and his lovely mom.  

Happy New Year, my friends. May we all have some Triple Berry Jams in 2017. Love you!
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